By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA –As a sports writer, it is a cardinal rule that you’re not supposed to cheer in the press box or openly cheer for your favorite athlete. It’s something us old sportswriters tell younger aspirants entering our profession.
But every now and then we are reminded that we scribes of sports are actually human. There are times we, like fans, often run into players that you wind up cheering for and wishing him all the best.
That’s the case with Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham who is still hanging on with the team by a thread and is not guaranteed to make the final roster. During his time with the Eagles, Graham has been a good guy even through some difficult times with injuries.
Throughout the offseason, Graham has been the subject of trade rumors. Even in the midst of what could be his impending demise here with the Eagles, Graham came into this first set of offseason workouts with a smile and brimming with confidence. That’s why you find yourself rooting for a guy like that.
“I feel like they want me here, I’m still here … I feel like if this is something they wanted to do, I would have been gone,” Graham said of the rumors. “I came in at the right weight 265 (pounds). I’m controlling what I can. Whatever the rumors were, I really didn’t pay attention to it because I got a role to play and that’s to do my part to win games for this year.”
During his sojourn with the Eagles through devastating injuries and coaching changes, Graham has often faced adversity with a smile and a determination to be a contributor any way he can while he’s still with the team. He said the trade rumors have only strengthened his resolve.
“Well you know that chip has always been on my shoulder ever since I hurt my knee, so it never way, but it definitely put a chip on my shoulder,” Graham said.
Playing at the linebacker position in the pro for the first time in his career, Graham had 21 tackles (14 solo) coming off the bench playing behind Trent Cole and Conner Barwin. With a year under his belt, the former University of Michigan star said he has a better grasp of defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ 3-4 defense.
“This year I’m more fast-paced because I know the defense … with a year under my belt, I can take it to another level,” Graham said. “I just want to show them guys that I really want to be here because I love Philadelphia I’ve made it my home and I would be sad if I have to go.”
Complicating Graham’s chances to make this year’s team is that the team drafted pass-rushing linebacker Marcus Smith out of Louisville in the first round. If the rookie has an impressive camp, Graham, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, could be expendable.
“I think it’s just an added guy that’s going to help us win,” Graham said. “It’s all about competition. You can bring in all the competition you want. We’re going to make each better. If it’s here or elsewhere, I’m not shying away from competition.”
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said Graham has done a good job when he was in games last season, but he also acknowledged that it might be a numbers’ game with the depth at linebacker position.
“Yeah, I think he obviously has the skill set to rush the passer and set the edge. And when he’s been in there, he’s been productive. The issue is that the other guy’s really productive, too,” Kelly said. “How many times can you get them all on the field together? If you put Brandon in, do you take Trent [Cole] out; if you put Brandon in, do you take Connor [Barwin] out? It’s really the pecking order.”
With the numbers the Eagles have at the linebacker position, Graham said he’s confident that he’s going to make the 2014 Birds roster and let the chips fall where they may.
“I feel like I have the opportunity. Any person’s dream is to start,” Graham said. “As long as I’m playing that’s all that matters to me. At the end of the day, I want to get out there and show what I can do. If we’re winning that’s all that matters.”